Tuesday 22 December 2009

You made me realize I cannot do it alone: my network is my strength, my beacon of light, my inspiration, so thanks to you all!

The big question for December 2009 was: “What did you learn about learning in 2009”. Well, just one very simple, yet essential thing: to open up and embrace sharing knowledge.
2009 was a very chaotic year for my blogging reflections. I just did not know where I was going and I had an existential blogging crisis. Reading all your blogs, I felt as though I just was not adding enough. All through 2009 I tried to stay on top of the new whirlwind of gadgets (new social media software, new mobile devices…), I dived into many papers and books on topics directly related to eLearning and mobile learning, but something was missing and I felt as though I was falling short.

However, there were two bright and clear actions that pushed my learning in 2009 and which brought me back to this earth and all its wonders.

The first actions that gave me a boost in 2009 were all your great ideas! During the presentations, the trainings and the workshops (online and face-to-face) I was able to give, I learned the most, although I was the one who was asked to take the lead. The participants and partners in these workshops, trainings and presentation settings were amazing. The participants always came up with great ideas, added relevant question marks, and paved the way to deeper understanding for us, the entire group. Thanks to you I now realize more than ever that trusting the team, and opening up to the network is what it is all about. It is about us, or quoting my favorite film by Miranda July, ‘Me You and Everyone We Know’: “We are all in this together.”

The other great beacon of inspiration, and a most humbling one, were all the health care workers I met in 2009 and with whom my colleagues and I tried to find solutions for their eLearning situations and challenges. Most of these health care workers work in dire conditions, in regions that only had a minimum of connectivity, sometimes war hurt regions, and despite these trying conditions they were happy with any exchange of knowledge that could take place. I learned a lot from all of them: keep it simple, share and connect. They also put my feet back on the ground: technology is an instrument connected to an economic class, it is the instrument of humans, and it is up to all of us to choose what we do with it. Those health care workers knew and know how important a network is. They know that the strength of any network can make the difference between life and death (district hospitals rely frequently on telemedicine to get answers to difficult cases). Technology enables those networks, but does not build or nourish them. So I respect every one of these health care workers immensely. They make a difference just by living, learning and connecting.

These networks gave a direction to a lot of my learning; they pushed my learning towards usefulness, and creativity. So in 2009 I learned that it is not the learning that I have gone through, but the learning we all could accomplish that makes the difference. This world is a wonderful place and human nature can be full of kindness and sharing. I am very glad I belong to this global network of people that want to learn, share and grow towards a better life for all. You all made me realize I cannot do it alone, but that it is okay, that together we can build on each other. My network is my strength, my beacon of light, my inspiration, so thanks to you all!

Monday 21 December 2009

PhD thesis on tagging learning resources in a multilangual context

For years people are pushed to tag their learning resources, but I often wondered whether these tagged resources actually do get reused? Or whether tagging between peers that live in various parts of the world only works in theory, but does in fact not result in sharing resources in actual learning life. But here comes Riina with a clear answer to these questions.

Some great shared learning resources have been around for some years: the Open Educational Resources Commons, which was set-up by ISKME which was launched Februari 2007 and has strong partners e.g. UNESCO, OER commons works with tags a lot. Another renowned one is of course the MIT opencourseware, but then the latter does not use tags much.

There are also other smaller scale projects that share their learning resources. Together with other ITM-people I am working on an eLearning partnership that enables all to exchange learning modules, hence decreasing all our time in developing online courses, because we divide the workload and at the same time enabling us all to share our content/elearning knowledge across many different settings. This is way I was thrilled reading the phd in question that covers sharing learning resources across borders and more specifically how tags work in those situations.
At the same time, I sometimes wonder what happens with any Dutch work I write? How can people find Dutch papers, or articles in any other language, if they only have tags to go on (which are sometimes quite different depending on the language). Of course tagging in different languages for the same written document might be an answer, but Riina offers a far more interesting and workable solution, which relies on networks underlying the content based mainly on the three factors: user, item, tag.

Riina Vuorikari wrote her phd entitled "Tags and self-organisation: a metadata ecology for learning resources in a multilingual context", and in the introduction she describes the main ideas behind it:

"Social tags offer an interesting aspect to study learning resources, its metadata
and how users interact with them in a multilingual context. Tags, as opposed to conventional metadata description such as Learning Object Metadata (LOM), are free, non-hierarchical keywords that end-users associate with a digital artefact, e.g. a learning resource. Tags are formed by a triple of (user,item,tag).
Tags and the resulting networks, folksonomies, are commonly modelled as tripartite hypergraphs. This ternary relational structure gives rise to a number of novel relations to better understand, capture and model contextual information. The (user,item) relationship is a parameter of the interaction between a user and the learning resource. In the (user,tag) relation, on the other hand, tags are regarded as part of the user model that reflects user’s interests and intentions. The full relational structure emphasises the (item,tag) relation that allows tags to be part of describing the item that they are related to (e.g. a learning resource). Additionally, the (item,tag) relation can be extended to the metadata of the item (e.g. LOM), from which an additional relationship (tag,LOM) is inferred."

The thesis describes two exploratory studies and "introduces a trilogy of studies focusing on self-organisation, flexibility and robustness of a social tagging system using empirical, behavioural data captured from log-files and user’s attention metadata trails on a number of learning resource portals and platforms in a multilingual context."

This is a very interesting thesis (181 pages) on tagging and how to get the most out of it.

(photo information from thesis: Figure 8.1. A learning network: a social network graph of about 5000 eTwinning teachers connected through common projects. The nodes are teachers and the edges are common projects (Breuer, Klamma, Cao & Vuorikari, 2009).

Friday 18 December 2009

Living a mobile life? How do you cope?

First I was a nomad, I did not have a house nor passport for two years, moving from one place to another. Then I was house hopping for another three years. Eventually I got myself a house, then I started to learn on top of my work... so all along I had to be mobile. Where the mobility was mostly physical in the first part of my adult life, it quickly became essential for my mental development in the second part of my adult life.

As ubiquitous learning is becoming more obvious, some of you have been writing on the fact that learning has always been mobile, like Michelle Pacansky-Brock linking it to university issues. With this post I would love to hear your mobile life and how you are coping?

For my work I sometimes need to visit partners in the South (India, Morocco, South-Africa...). While I am there, I learn from my colleagues over there, I learn how they tackle certain pedagogical problems and infrastructural challenges. So I guess, at that point I am learning while being mobile, something that explorers have always done. In fact starting from the 17th century mobile learning was all the rave if you were part of the upper class, you went on a Grand Tour to get extra education. And in Africa they had and have people - les griots - who took what they had seen and learned on their travels and routes, the history of the people passed on to them for generations, and delivered that knowledge to whomever wanted to listen to them. So mobile learning is not new, but learning through means of mobile devices is.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was on route and this is how I was learning while being on route or mobile. I am currently following a master in distance education at Athabasca University on top of my work as an eLearning coordinator and researcher at the Institute of Tropical Medicine. This brings along some challenges, because where ever I go for my job, I need to stay in touch with my learning material as well. On this journey I had: two smartphones (one symbian, one windows mobile and waiting to by an android one), one light weight laptop with me. The trip consisted of a bus ride, four trains (yes, cutting the carbon emission by not taking the plain) which totaled 8 hours of travelling and a cab drive to my hotel.

All in all, here are some mobile learning snapshots... pictures taken with mobile smartphones:

Waiting for the train, so learning on the platform

Shaky while writing the first draft of a paper on the train

Learning next to the queen while waiting on the next train

What is your mobile life like?

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Mobile magazines and journals to get new ideas or publish your work

As your mobile experience and knowledge grows, you might want to publish your findings and experiences, at least I do.

Before listing the mobile magazines that might be interesting to send your manuscript to, consider the ISSN-option.
If you have a blog or website and you are already publishing or want to publish on a regular basis on scientific topics, you might want to ask an ISSN (= International Standard Serial Number). The ISSN is an eight-digit number which identifies periodical publications as such, including electronic serials. The ISSN is linked to a standardized form of the title of the identified serial, known as the "key title", which repeats the title of the publication, qualifying it with additional elements in order to distinguish it from other publications having identical titles. Contrary to other types of publications, the world of serial publications is particularly changeable and complex : the lifetime of a title may be extremely short; many publications may be part of a complex set of relationships, etc. These particularities themselves necessitated the introduction of the ISSN. ISSN are assigned to electronic publications as far as they are serials or other continuing resources. However commercial web sites, personal weblogs and web pages, web pages which contain only links to other URLs are not eligible for ISSN. But if you review certain topics on a regular basis, you might be eligeable for an ISSN (e.g. ICTology http://ictlogy.net/review/ ).
Here is the link for the ISSN overview and request form.

Here are some of the Mobile learning journals or magazines that might be of interest to you. I focused on specialized journals, but of course you can go very open as well and address eLearning journals that I referred to a couple of months ago.
This mobile journal list is not exhaustive, so if you know of any others please add your link.

International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning (IJMBL) was launched in 2009. The editor-in-chief is Dr. David Parsons and he is completely enthusiastic in real in-depth scientific papers.

International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation (IJMLO)
ISSN (Online): 1746-7268 - ISSN (Print): 1746-725X

International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies (iJIM), this is an open access journal (yeah!)

Mobile Information Systems
has been around for 6 years.

Have additional ones? Give me a sign if you know any other specifically mLearning journals or magazines.

Other more broad publications to consider:

smartphone and PocketPC magazine:

(Another great cartoon by Nick D Kim, nearingzero.net.)

Thursday 3 December 2009

Addressing continuously evolving learning needs: Karyn Romeis

After virtually connecting to Karyn Romeis from time to time, I now have the opportunity of seeing Karyn in action while addressing one of her topics of expertise. So I am excited.

Karyn Romeis will talk about how can educators keep pace with the changing needs of business.

As educators we must learn the language of the business, so educators can sit around the table and discuss their needs and visions in their words.
How learning must be about getting the learning out there, not about fitting it into the right kind of package (it's about content not the wrapper).
Educators must learn to look at those solutions that people use already.
Look at the obvious tools that already are around (public folders in MS outlook, even ppt) easy stuff that gets the content in an easy way to the learner.

Karyn brings her message across with a lot of flair and inspiration. She got the public thinking and rewarded those who participated with chocolates. It was really a tread to see her in action.

LMS in this learner-centered world? You must be joking!

Well, I would not state it that harsh, but never the less I have the feeling that LMS does not really fit into the picture of contemporary learning.

So I put together a small presentation as an introduction to what I hope will be a very nice debate at Online Educa Berlin 2009 in room Potsdam 1, starting at 14.00h.

Any remarks you might have, send them, I will be happy to take them into account.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

OEB09 mobile workshop 'How to begin mLearning'

Today I had the pleasure of leading a full day workshop with very enthusiastic participants at the Online Educa Berlin 2009 conference. The number of participants was limited to 20 enabling us all to network and exchange our knowledge with the other participants.

For this occasion I put up an easy to use Posterous blog. This blog was the joint working space for the workshop as everyone was a collaborator. To send anything to the blog (video, audio, ppt, documents...) you just have to mail it to one central dedicated e-mail and all that material is posted on the blog. So you can use it with any mobile device from which you can mail and in a lot of cases mailing is the thing people use frequently on their mobile.
In a second step I made the posterous blog easily visible for mobile devices, by connecting it to a free mofuse mobile rendering account. This saved us all on data exchange costs.

For those interested in what happened, I have posted all the slides below.
Thank you to all the participants and I will send you all a linked in group invite soon to keep us all connected like you asked!

The full day workshop was divided into 4 session, one of which was a totally 'walk to talk' or hands-on session in which all the participants roamed through the streets and the building building a mobile project.

Session 1: 4 mobile cases and statistics on the latest mobile evolutions

Session 2: on planning, tools and qr-codes

Session 3 was the hands-on session and session 4 was looking at the future.

It was really a wonderful day thanks to all the positive ideas that the participants collaboratively shared.